The first time I heard the adage “There’s a reason we are writers…”, I was with author friends. My original interpretation of the comment focused on lofty reasons, like that Homer and Milton are our ancestors, that our reading comprehension scores blast-furnaced aptitude tests, and that the Nobel and Pulitzer committees would surely be knocking on our doors soon. As my colleagues groaned and snickered, I realized my cogitations misread the direction of the comment. The desired sentiment was more akin to what I remember Garrison Keillor saying, “There’s a reason I’m on the radio….," a fun-poke on his looks, suggesting that while his strong, distinctive voice was well suited to radio, he had not the suave looks appropriate for TV or movies.
By now you realize the punch line to “there’s a reason we are writers.” The written word is our format, our strength. Writers generally are not actors and entertainers. Many are not orators or clever conversationalists. Some are shy and loath to respond in conversation, the razor-sharp wit, keen insight, or effortless compassion of their written works not apparent face-to-face. What you do get face-to-face are real people – flesh and blood and foibles and virtues, and if you are familiar with and like a writer’s work, you know a part of her and have a connection with that author – not as a celebrity, but as a person.
I attended the 2015 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in October, and this was one of my big take-aways. In panel discussions, it was obvious that group-question-fielding was not the most comfortable format for all authors. However, when attendees chatted with writers in hallways and elevators, at book singing tables, and over meals and drinks, these same panel-challenged folks totally shined. Access to authors at Bouchercon was unparalleled. Informal events, lobby introductions, and sidewalk hoofing brought attendees side-by-side and face-to-face with writers and allowed good, old-fashioned acquaintanceship and genuine interaction. Writers are people, and some of the nicest people.
Now for something truly useful: celebritybooksigningsandevents.com and findbooksignings.com. I came across these sites as I wondered which famous authors planned to visit our area. Listings on the celebrity site show that Drew Barrymore will sign copies of Wildflower in New York, Illinois, California, and Oregon between 10/27 and 11/6. Chelsea Clinton is on a whirlwind tour promoting It's Your World from Massachusetts to Florida to Colorado to Washington between 10/21 and 11/7. Ben Carson and Newt Gingrich will be everywhere, according to the website, but not together. Judy Collins, Elvis Costello, Kevin Costner, and Cindy Crawford are all out signing books, too. Closer to home, findbooksignings.com tells me that although David Baldacci’s November 17th book signing in McLean is too far for me to go, he’ll be signing on November 21st in Charlottesville and on November 22nd in Glen Allen. That last one I can attend!
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